Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Suzuka, 2019

Japanese Grand Prix cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns

2021 F1 season

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The 2021 Japanese Grand Prix has been cancelled by the national government due to ongoing concerns over Covid-19 infections in the country.

Formula 1 was due to return to the Suzuka in October, for the first time since 2019. Last year’s race was also cancelled due to the pandemic.

The country recently held the Olympics, albeit under a state of emergency, meaning spectators could not attend. However several international motorsport series have been forced to cancel their Japanese rounds, including the World Endurance Championship, which was due to visit the Fuji circuit in September.

The race’s cancellation was confirmed by Formula 1 in a statement on Wednesday. “Following ongoing discussions with the promoter and authorities in Japan the decision has been taken by the Japanese government to cancel the race this season due to ongoing complexities of the pandemic in the country,” it said.

The 2021 F1 calendar has already undergone several changes in response to the pandemic. The series is already seeking a replacement for the Australian Grand Prix, which was cancelled following its earlier postponement from March to November.

Analysis: F1’s tight title fight means urgent answers are needed to calendar conundrum
“Formula 1 is now working on the details of the revised calendar and will announce the final details in the coming weeks,” the statement continued. “Formula 1 has proven this year, and in 2020, that we can adapt and find solutions to the ongoing uncertainties and is excited by the level of interest in locations to host Formula 1 events this year and beyond.”

UK travel list restrictions are not expected to present a challenge to F1’s further’s reorganisation of the calendar, RaceFans understands, as they did earlier in the year when Turkey was removed from the calendar. That race was later reinstated as a replacement for the cancelled Singapore Grand Prix.

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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  • 87 comments on “Japanese Grand Prix cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns”

    1. I wonder if they’ll replace it with a different race.

      Only circuits nearby would be the Yeongnam F1 circuit in South Korea, or perhaps they could go and finally race at the Hanoi Street Circuit in Vietnam?

      Both are incredibly unlikely

      1. @Sam Crawford
        The Vietnamese GP got cancelled (non-COVID reason) very early on, so no point even pondering. Yeongam Circuit isn’t in the same state anymore, so wouldn’t be ready for F1 at this notice.
        Truth is, no other viable alternative in Asia east of Abu Dhabi. Chinese GP still isn’t formally cancelled, but unlikely, not to mention it couldn’t take place on consecutive weekends with any track for customs logistics.

      2. Seipang (Malaysia) but are we in the Monsoon season ?

        Reply moderated
        1. Was currently hit by massive covid-19 daily cases and political instability.

        2. Sepang have just cancelled their motogp race because of covid, so that’s out…

          And yes, it is the rainy season.

    2. I was decently optimistic but never ruled out this outcome either.
      Pity anyway. BTW, how wouldn’t UK’s Red List be an issue this time? Turkish GP was unable to go ahead in June because the following weekend was a non-race one, so no different in this case as the subsequent weekend is now race-less.
      The only chance for Turkish GP, besides Turkey getting removed from Red List in time, is if Istanbul Park and Sochi Autodrom swapped weekends.

      1. @jerejj This is just me guessing but I assume F1 can negotiate a workaround similar to the circumstances Formula E have been working under all season. Although we never ended up in a red list country we were a red list country to virtually everywhere we went, so it was a case of very specific waivers and quarantines/bubble regimes.

      2. Whilst not entirely surprising, I find this announcement disappointing.
        I have just spent the last 8 weeks in Tokyo working at the Olympics (I work in the broadcast sector) and have seen at first hand the exceptional measures that the Japanese people went to in order for the Olympics to go ahead.
        Given the logistical challenge of the Olympics (and the Paralympics that start next week), the F1 is small fry.
        F1 is essentially one travelling circus, not thousands of athletes, trainers, officials, broadcast and media folk from 200+ countries. F1 will be onsite less than a week, rather than the 2.5 weeks of the Olympics.

        The only logic I can see for cancelling is if the race simply can’t go ahead economically without fans, but if that’s the case, its sad that Liberty can’t help bridge the gap.

        1. @eurobrun Olympics and Motorsport events are a different matter, so apples to oranges comparison.
          Here’s another users point on this copy-paste from elsewhere, which explains the difference more specifically:
          ”You have to remember the Olympics have far more money involved by the host country and has far more international prestige than an F1 race does. You can’t really compare the two as similar.
          also, F1 can happen every year, the Olympics maybe once every couple of decades for a host nation.”

    3. Can they do a Chinese Grand Prix instead? That country has been COVID-free for a long time now.

      1. It seems unlikely; they supress covid cases partly by restricting who they allow in.

        Not sure of the latest, but its been citizens-only for a while. Exceptions might be made for F1, but I wouldn’t be that hopeful.

        Reply moderated
      2. @sumedh Not on a subsequent weekend with another circuit because of China’s customs logistics.
        Even otherwise, a rescheduled Chinese GP seems unlikely.

      3. Hahaha. Good one sumedh.

    4. Tragic human cost to these kind of big event cancellations. Cancelled orders have devastating effects on supply chains on products produced in low-income countries. This means extensions and increases in extreme poverty, leading to malnutrition and hungry children. I think this year we’ve seen an extra 155m plunged into extreme poverty.

      Better safe than sorry I guess though.

      1. I would be interested to know what specific products you are talking about that link a cancelled GP weekend to an increase in extreme poverty. It seems to me that drought, famine, war, trading sanctions, etc., have an effect orders of magnitude larger on such issues.

        1. @ferrox-glideh

          I would be interested to know what specific products you are talking about that link a cancelled GP weekend to an increase in extreme poverty.

          Poor knowledge on Economics detected. Big events help small businesses too, and by far the gains outweight the losses unless they’re made with “public” govt stolen money.

          1. @rodewulf “Poor knowledge on Economics detected.” Then maybe you can specifically explain Alan Dove’s comment about how cancelling one race in Japan creates such poverty in the third world. I understand the cumulative effect of an industry collapsing, but in this case I think he has overstated the case.

            1. @ferrox-glideh

              Then maybe you can specifically explain Alan Dove’s comment about how cancelling one race in Japan creates such poverty in the third world.

              Not that it creates poverty in the third world, but it has a tiny contribution in maintaining it, especially when it’s not an isolated event but it becomes a huge one, as many business have been closed or hindered recently, even by threat of force by the govts. There’s a global recession again, so it’s not difficult to understand one of the main factors that has been causing or aggravating it. But looking to the smaller picture, manufacturing industry had been migrating from China to poorer countries, which offer exactly the type of goods that would be consumed less because of a cancelled Formula 1 race, just to come with a possible example. Of course it depends on the international prices of goods that are fabricated in countries like Malaysia and Vietnam, or even poorer ones, but here’s a clear way in which it could have a diminishing effect on extreme poverty.

    5. With all the cancellations over the past year, Malaysia has never been mentioned as an alternative? Is Kuala Lumpur not a viable alternative?

      1. They’re having the same problems with increasing covid cases as Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam so not really.

        1. Plus political instability in recent weeks.

      2. How about an Afghanistan Grand Prix? Too soon?

    6. China still has very strict quarantine rules, I would doubt they would waive them at the minute due to increased local cases over the last few weeks

    7. My money is on Germany replacing that slot in the calendar.
      Nurburgring hosted F1 last year on the exact same date. Plus it’s easier going from Istanbul to Germany, than to Japan or East Asia in general.

      Also if Brazil drops, I think we would have a double race in Austin.
      And Bahrain ‘oval’ would most likely fill in the empty Australian GP slot.

      1. @black Undoable because European events use trucks while others use freight. I got explained this by someone who, from what I know, works in F1 on another site earlier this year. Simply a no-go for logistical reasons.

      2. Well, I do think it’s quite possible that by now the Nurburgring isn’t the HQ for rescue and help crews in the area that was swamped with water only a few weeks back anymore. But then, they are still hard at work at clearing everything in the region and I seriously doubt the local governments or just the people of the region would really be happy to have something like the F1 caravan move in for a week or so @black.

        I am even sort of surprised that Spa is going ahead full steam (guess there was enough will to go ahead by the locals and Liberty) given that was quite close to the impacted area in Belgium (saw pictures of some access roads and trains are only now strating to get back running in the region)

        But also, as @jerejj mentions, by now it is getting hard to make everything work logistics wise even IF that track is a realistic option (the same goes for Hockenheim).

      3. As for Texas, that state and FL are now far and away leading the US in new cases. The TX governor just came down with COVID himself. Of course these are the two states where the leadership is most opposed to COVID related restrictions.

        1. Hawaii has the same COVID growth rate and is very strict. Lockdowns and restrictions don’t stop COVID and we’re going to have to arrive at that fact. Life needs to go on.

          1. @jblank

            Well, if thats the case then you better start donating your personal money to build more ICU hospital beds as areas with high covid are near max capacity. That means when a family tragically gets in a very bad car accident or when little Johnny falls badly out of a tree, they might not be to get the help & resources they need because the beds are filled. Same goes if your wife needs Chemo and they cant go to the hospital because she has no immune system and very susceptible but maybe those people don’t count?

            The real issue is whether our medical facilities can handle everything at the same time and give the general (non-covid) community the help that it needs.

            1. I’m already donating my personal money, it’s called tax.
              It might be an alien concept to some.

            2. Jonathan O'Brien
              19th August 2021, 15:33

              ICUs everywhere are always near max capacity regardless

          2. If “lockdowns and restrictions don’t stop COVID” (or, more accurately, don’t significantly reduce the transmission of the virus and new cases developing), then why has everywhere with restrictions in place seen large increases every time those restrictions have been relaxed?

            1. Jonathan O'Brien
              19th August 2021, 15:31

              because Covid has not been eradicated by the lockdowns?

              Unless you want to be locked down forever Covid will not disappear

            2. @drmouse

              If “lockdowns and restrictions don’t stop COVID” (or, more accurately, don’t significantly reduce the transmission of the virus and new cases developing), then why has everywhere with restrictions in place seen large increases every time those restrictions have been relaxed?

              There’s a behaviour component on the attitude of people despite lockdowns, as only in China they literally put an entire population in house arrest. In minimally free nations lockdowns haven’t stopped anyone to visit friends and family as a matter of fact, but was horrible to the economy nevertheless.

            3. Unless the lockdown was complete and worldwide (which was impossible(, they were never going to eradicate the virus. It was also known that many would ignore the restrictions. The fact, however, is that lockdowns have significantly reduced the number of cases and the number of deaths, as well as stopping the disease from overwhelming medical infrastructure. This bought time for vaccine development and deployment, which is allowing a gradual and careful reduction in restrictions.

              Yes, COVID is here to stay. However, thanks to the sacrifices of everyone who put their lives on hold over the last year or so for the sake of others, huge numbers of lives have been saved and places around the world can begin to open back up. As the vaccines make their rounds and deaths and cases diminish, fewer restrictions will be needed, and we can generally get back to normal.

            4. @drmouse

              The fact, however, is that lockdowns have significantly reduced the number of cases and the number of deaths, as well as stopping the disease from overwhelming medical infrastructure.

              The biggest effect in changing of the number of cases had been the oscillation of decrease and increase of infections between rounds of partial herd immunity, the so-called Covid waves. It was seen everywhere in the world regardless of lockdown imposition or not (Japan is an example of no lockdown but more decentralised measures, and most US states too since mid-2020). Of course with vaccination one more factor of immunisation was added, a more powerful one, even though it faced more infectious variants like Delta. Then number of cases and deaths go down slower than it would otherwise.

    8. Bring in the Mugello!

      1. Yes, that was a good race.

        1. Also, it’s kind of an italian Suzuka, with all those super fast bends, uphill, downhill.

      2. @thegamer23 A no-go for logistical reasons. See above for more info.

    9. I knew from May it wouldn’t go ahead.

      1. Same here. After the Olympics were completed I thought there was a greater chance of a race at Suzuka. But the Paralympics (multi-venue, far greater number of officials and competitors) – in the same country – still take place 🤔

        Brazil and Mexico next to announce cancellation. Only a matter of time (despite what the São Paulo official said recently)

        1. @Simon

          Sadly, Yes on Mexico being cancelled as they were updated to UK’s Red List just recently 10 days ago.

          As noted on the Red List:
          “Moved to the red list 4am, Sunday 8 August. If you arrive in England after then (Mexico), you must follow the red list rules.”

    10. So what is the problem exactly? Is there a low vaccination grade in Japan? Or something else? They need to state the reason or are they going to keep COVID measures into the 30’s?

      1. I think people really need to start thinking deeply that F1 may never return to Japan and eastern countries. People seem to talk about these cancellations as if they aren’t incredibly devastating for the industry and ecosystem of businesses that rely upon it. I think people are still in “well, we will go next year” mode. Nope. Financially it’s not sustainable to book and cancel races. The calendar next year might be hyper Eurocentric. It’s certainly something Liberty will have to consider. The world is becoming more insular and abandoning this global model of sport.

        1. @Alan Dove Unfortunately (or not), you could well be right. Time will tell.

        2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
          20th August 2021, 9:02

          Financially it’s not sustainable to book and cancel races

          Er.. maybe on other planets, but on this planet most countries don’t depend on grand prix to be financially secure. Health and wellbeing comes first.

          Lots of important people are doing deep thinking and these are the kinds of decisions they are making. Yes, Covid has caused great harm to certain industries, but grand prix are a drop in the ocean in comparison. Stand back and get some perspective.

      2. There’s a very low amount of vaccinations in Japan. When Covid started, Japan acted very quickly and with very strict quarantine. This worked exceptionally well keeping Covid to a very low amount of cases effecting the population. But because of this, the population has felt that it was not necessary to get vaccinated since there was so little Covid in Japan but the problem now is the country itself is very exposed if the country is opened up and they get hit with a spreading covid. The Govt. is now struggling on how to deal with this especially since so much of this aging population is not vaccinated and exposed.

        1. @redpill

          There’s a very low amount of vaccinations in Japan. When Covid started, Japan acted very quickly and with very strict quarantine.

          It’s worth to notice that in Japan the central govt doesn’t have direct authority to sanitary measures and impose lockdown or something of sorts, only to declare state of emergency. People followed the recommendations since the beginning and that’s one of the reasons for the lack of hurry with vaccination.

          1. Thanks @rodewulf , that’s sounds about right.

            It will be interesting how the public proceeds there with vaccinations after the Olympics had happened and new variants arriving their front door. They no longer have the protected bubble they were living in (at least not as much).

    11. Well that is disappointing but not really unexpected… always next year I guess.

      1. always next year I guess.

        Unless there isn’t…

    12. I imagine holding a grand prix would be safer than holding an Olympics.

      1. This
        Ioc has more clout than f1 then.

        1. A single race weekend which happens almost every year is much easier to cancel then a massive event like the Olympics which is unlikely to be back there for decades.

    13. Just got this on my facebook, and the worst ever has occurred. I wanted one to see one last go at Suzuka with these cars whether live on track or on tv. What a shame, but at least watching them in 2019 live was the best. We can’t lose Suzuka forever. This track needs to host the Japanese Grand Prix or be in the calendar.

      1. @krichelle

        I too hope that is not the case.

        I feel that well respected and favorite tracks can get some extra help/repreive from F1 after this all done and when things get back to normal (hopefully).
        It would be very odd to have F1 and no races in Japan. I believe (hoping) there will be some kind of dispensation for the historical tracks to get back on the schedule that have been effected by Covid.

        It will be really nice to see F1 cars racing around again on tracks like Suzuka. Don’t lose hope!

    14. Josh (@canadianjosh)
      18th August 2021, 12:59

      I’d be shocked to see a Grand Prix in any of the Americas as well (US,Mexico,Brazil) at the rate of the delta.

      1. Cases are low and vax rates high here Josh. Why not a fall Montreal GP.

        1. The weather is too unpredictable for a GP in Montreal in the fall. It could be nice, but it could be snowing.

          1. @canadianjosh Same. Mexico and Brazil facing cancellation are at risk because of UK’s Red List, while COTA could also lose out because of the recent Austin/Texas situation change.
            @ferrox-glideh, I agree – too cold and unpredictable, so not worth going.
            @scott6428

      2. Even though Travis County, Texas (where Austin is located) is a “Sustained Hotspot” as defined by the CDC, and has had a rapid rise in COVID cases in the last few weeks the Texas government refuses to take steps to mitigate the spread and has even passed a law actually banning mask-wearing mandates. So I don’t think the local TX government will cancel the Grand Prix. If anyone cancels it, I think it will be F1 due to the risk of unvaccinated and unmasked attendees spreading COVID to everyone else in the circus.

        1. The F1 and MotoGP races at Cota will get cancelled, because of no free ICU beds in hospitals if the situation in Austin is still this bad in October.

          1. @forrest

            This is the problem that most people don’t seem to understand or realize and why there’s quarantine and vaccinations. Because of the high amount of ICU beds being occupied, any type of non covid critical medical need by the general population is now heavily & tragically effected by Covid.
            People may not believe in Covid but whether you do or you don’t, it will certainly effect them if one of their family members (from bad car accident, shooting, falling off a roof, industrial accident…..etc) and is in desperate need of critical medical care and could very be turned away or only get brutal triage care. Our modern 1st world infrastructure is being heavily effected by this and turns into third world or war zone care.
            Let just hope there’s no catastrophic event that happens at the same time when ICU beds are already full, like in Austin, Texas.

            1. @redpill @forrest We’ll have a good test case the week before with the NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway. Currently fans attending races there are not required to wear masks, although it is encouraged and they offer vaccinations at multiple locations at the track. This looks like it is the same as AT&T Stadium and NRG Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans play.

            2. @g-funk

              Thats good that they’ll be offering vaccinations, I’ll be curious on how many take up that offer? And how many actually wear the masks.

              I think the real test will be much bigger at NRG Stadium, even though they can open the roof, they almost never open the roof for any reason, even when the weather is super nice (not summer). With 70,000 people seating together nice and tight inside will for sure be a petri dish test. I guess we wont know what the final petri dish results are in Houston for another 4+ weeks after the game?

            3. @g-funk

              Offering vaccinations at the event will make little to no difference to the event, because the vaccines take a while to start being effective.

              As for it being a “good test case”, the decision on the GP will have to be taken well before that weekend, and even so, it will only be a “good test case” if there are accidents resulting in ICU places being needed. I don’t think any of us want that to happen.

          2. And Texas is now the third place on the states with most vaccinations per day. I guess people is scared, but that is good news, fully vaccinated in two months means that maybe hospitalizations will drop in early October.

            1. @drmouse

              I never said vaccines at the track would make a difference for the event itself. I was merely pointing out the COVID protocols that have been put in place at large sporting events in Texas. If people come to the event and get vaccinated, great. I would have much preferred they were vaccinated months ago, but late is better than never.

              As for my “good test case” statement, again this was merely pointing out that these sorts of events could indicate what sort of things we as fans might see at a US Grand Prix if it were to take place. Will we see unvaccinated, maskless fans? Probably. Will we see vaccination centers at the track? Maybe. Will we see proof of vaccination to enter? Probably not. But these events will be a test case to see what happens at large events like this.

    15. Not in the least surprised – Japan has kept its borders very much closed since April last year. The Olympics were a one-off with huge investment, politics etc attached to them. By contrast motor racing drivers aren’t considered elite sports competitors when it comes to immigration during Covid – just ask almost any of the international drivers supposed in Super Formula this year.

      1. @wombat1m I couldn’t agree more. Different treatment for the reasons you mentioned + Super Formula is indeed a good example of this.

      2. The only thing to add is that IOC has FIFA levels of corruption as well, which will have greased the path to an open door for the Olympics….

        1. That sounds serious

    16. Back to back COTA please. They can even make one a sprint race weekend whatever.

      I’m going to the race in Austin and was horrified when I read this article worried the date would change. Lodging is so expensive I’ve already paid like $5k for the weekend if it is cancelled or the date is changed that will be the last F1 race I attend. I really feel for the people who travelled to Australia at the beginning of the 2020 season. Fans lost but F1 is still in the black.

      1. Either this or Istanbul or any other one…

    17. Poor decision. They just had the Olympics there, run the race with no fans. Covid is here to stay, the sooner they realize this, get everyone in the paddock vaccinated, and just move on with things, the better. There will not be a no COVID situation.

      1. @jblank Olympics and Motorsport events are a different matter. See above for more info.

      2. @jblank

        Poor decision. They just had the Olympics there, run the race with no fans.

        Yeah, I don’t see any argument reasonable enough to not run it behind close doors, as Japan has been too restrictive with outside events yet very relaxed internally, at least regarding official measures.

    18. I would not be surprised to see the US GP cancelled this year. Delta variant COVID cases in Texas are skyrocketing and the incompetent and slimy governor is doing nothing about it. The Miami GP next year may also be cancelled as Delta variant COVID is even worse there.

      1. Yeah a lot of the Republican governments are doing some wildly crazy stuff and either ignore reality or don’t care if their constituents die. I still don’t understand why mask mandates are considered affronts against humanity, nevermind the small vaccination rates. Now hospitals in those areas are full or nearly full and some cannot accept new patients. But after another month there might be no other option than to lock down or the hospitals may not be able to treat everyday injuries.

        1. @ryanoceros

          Yeah a lot of the Republican governments are doing some wildly crazy stuff and either ignore reality or don’t care if their constituents die.

          Your naive faith in big govt interventions is appalling. There’s no way to control a pandemic if people don’t want to collaborate, unless you do like China and literally put an entire population in house arrest. But then you’d instate an all-powerful sanguinary dictatorship, which in the long term is worse than any sanitary crisis, even black plague.

          I still don’t understand why mask mandates are considered affronts against humanity, nevermind the small vaccination rates.

          Against a vague notion of humanity it might be, but against individual freedoms its in fact a big deal. If you don’t care about freedom, that’s right for you, but don’t try to destroy others’ freedom to act. Before any possible rants, if you want to enforce the use of masks in your business that’s completely fine, but doing that anywhere and anytime with police repression is just tyrannical, regardless of good intentions. Japan is an example of dealing with this pandemic relativelly well with minimal use of state’s hard force, mostly civil recommendations alone. If the state had heavily intervened trying to put the number of cases down to zero they would have a worse economy right now, a certain number of lives could have been saved from Covid, but a big amount of others would have been destroyed, either through depression, anxiety or financial distress, in a way bigger scale than what we’re seeing right now. This part the technocrats advising govts to intervene rarely talk about.

          Now hospitals in those areas are full or nearly full and some cannot accept new patients. But after another month there might be no other option than to lock down or the hospitals may not be able to treat everyday injuries.

          Many US states are open since mid-2020 and there wasn’t any civilisational collapse. The situation in hospitals remained bad, though, but many countries put in recurrent lockdown haven’t fared any better. Lockdown results are questionable to decrease the number of cases, let alone stop the pademic from going on, but let’s not contradict raw evidence that it works for the previous scenario. Then we should ask, at which cost we need to bring cases down? Destroying the world another way is not a good answer.
          Furthermore, the biggest effect in changing of the number of cases had been the oscillation of decrease and increase of infections between rounds of partial herd immunity, the so-called Covid waves. Of course with vaccination one more factor of immunisation was added, a more powerful one, even though it faced more infectious variants like Delta. Then number of cases and deaths go down slower than it would otherwise, but the effect is much more noticeable than any lockdown, even in currently totalitarian China.
          We must also consider that there’s a behaviour component on the attitude of people despite lockdowns, who may follow authoritative recommendations regarding safety (in various degrees depending on cultural and institutional factors), and it helps lockdowns to look like they work wonders, when in reality, if they really work epidemiologically wise, is to a limited extent in which the gains are far from offsetting the losses, economically speaking and regarding freedoms as well. So be careful with your wishiful thinking that a powerful government will come and fix things, as even in the rare occasions that they manage to fix the issues for good as a matter of fact, they almost always distort a lot of other things and usually never are held accountable for, as their corrupt officials and the protected scum outside of it are too powerful.

          1. I bet you are fun at parties.

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